The true story about the woman who sued McDonald's over hot coffee

I’m regularly infuriated by ignorant citations of this incident; as I recall, some salient features:

  1. McDonalds had a company-wide policy of producing its coffee at a temperature far too hot for human contact. As with everything that happens in a McDonalds, this resulted from carefully studied industrial design, and in some way that I can’t recall this process resulted in savings for McDonalds on each cup of coffee they sold.
  2. The plaintiff’s lawyers made good use of McDonalds’s having studied this question - I think they found documented evidence McDonalds had considered and then disregarded the safety issue.
  3. The jury responded not only to the woman’s injuries but also sought to punish McDonalds by going after the savings they had sought to realize state-wide through their policy of serving dangerously hot liquids. California is a large state, and the jury had no way to address this latter goal except by awarding the money to the plaintiff.

As others have said, the true purpose of the corporate media hyping (and often distorting) lawsuits like these is to distract from the fact that corporations are by far the most costly, litigious monsters out there. They are the problem… but, look over there!!

The corporate media loves to turn us against each other. Businesses are more litigious than consumers. Don’t let them fool you.

Unfortunately, a lot of the damage has already been done and the narrative has been set. Thank you, boingboing, for at least trying to stop the flood of FUD. Maybe after a couple more decades more Americans will get the memo…


As one of those who drank their coffee prior to the lawsuit, I will attest that it always seemed unreasonably hot, and I would avoid it for that very reason.

Also, for some reason (maybe the exploitation of the issue by Republicans), the whole story reminds me of these “chestnuts” about Government waste, also turned into their own Urban Legends:


They still serve it at that temperature. My theory is that they’re protecting their customers from the taste of their coffee by scalding away any taste buds that might otherwise convey just how awful that sludge is.

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^^^ this. Whenever this comes up in conversation, I shut it down with “it was so hot it melted her privates to her leg. Melted. Genitals.”


Democrats are great at it, but (to me, at least) Republicans take the cake when it comes to lying with half-truths, etc. It’s become second nature to them.

I posted this chart somewhere at another website and a person told me the chart was “full of lies” and they linked to a Republican chart on jobs numbers (using the same gov source). The Republican chart tried to show where Reagan created more jobs than Carter while leaving out the fact that Carter was a one term president. Their bullshit chart compared them as if they’d both served two terms. Whoops…

They love to “massage” (bullshit) the data in those kinds of ways. And, externalities and greater reality… be damned… The real shame is people keep falling for it… over and over and…


Not really.


You do realize that she requested McDonald’s to pay for her medical bills and they offered her $800 dollars, right?


She deserved every bit of that money.


I don’t think she did anything wrong. The system being what it is (at least in the US) she did the only reasonable thing and it was the best way to get the point across to McDonald’s.

I am still not convinced it is a good system though.

Considering that the rate at which huge compensation actually occurs is rather low, keeping the compensation HUGE is really the only quick way to provide any deterrent whatsoever. Want to rebalance the judicial system so that the excessively monied don’t have an unfair advantage? Let me know what I can do to help you accomplish your goal.

In the mean time, let big rulings stand.


I had been delete for bringing this exact story up whenever there is a “frivilous lawsuit” article brought up in the by one of the admins but he is not around anymore so YEY.

one of the few that slipped through can be read in the link.

Too Much Coffee Man (The mighty Shannon Wheeler) had a nice comic on this back in the 90’s, when he was angrier.


6% x 16% = 1%. (roughly)

Offtopic but useful trick: One of the ways salt makes food taste better is by reducing our perception of bitterness, and it has this effect even at concentrations too low to be noticed as salty. So if coffee is too bitter for your taste, try adding a tiny amount of salt. And I do mean tiny – ten grains of salt per cup is usually plenty and may be too much.

(Just demoed this for a friend, who did a classic doubletake at the result. Yes, it really does work. I’m told this was a traditional way for greasy-spoon diners to mask coffee that had been kept hot too long.)

If you’re one of the people who likes their coffee bitter, I can’t help you.

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I thought this was Too Much Coffee Man

Eh, as per @sr105 up there, I’m pretty much fine with it being given to the person with the hideously injured genitals.

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By the time you’ve let it brew, then added milk (shut up, lemon-slice weirdos), it’s a lot cooler than that I reckon. depends how you make your tea (in Mcdonalds in the US, probably badly).

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Percentages are often presented in a confusing and sloppy manner in the media. I got the impression that the statement “6% of the burns were third degree” was actually meant to indicate that 6 percentage points out of the 16 were third-degree burns, that 6% of her body received third-degree burns (not 6% of 16% of her body).

How can you award the victim based on the sales of a company? By that logic, if it was a hot dog stall the victim would get 50$ or what?

Actually, 1) they don’t serve it that hot anymore and 2) it’s a LOT better than it used to be. I hate to sound like a shill for McD’s, but I drink a lot of fast-food coffee and I’d say that currently - and for the past year and a half or so - McD’s has had the best. Burger King had Douwe Egberts for a few years, and that wuz AWESOME, but they switched to “Seattle’s Best” a couple years ago and that shit smells like somebody’s been smoking in my car. Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, and Del Taco all use one or another of the Apffels/Farmer Bros axis of evil, which leaves McD’s (and the dedicated coffee chains, of course, but Charbucks is the only one that has a decent number of drive-throughs.)
McD’s is still using the traditional drip-to-carafe-and-leave-it-on-the-warmer method, so if you order during a slack shift it can still be burnt, but during busy times it’s pretty much the best in the business. (Four creams inside; no sugar 'cause I’m sweet enough already.)